I always say, never travel at Christmas. It is always a nightmare, lost luggage, weather delays, cancellations.
So instead, I travelled a week before! 😊
Last Wednesday I had an appointment with an allergist in Vancouver. Since that is a medical service that is not provided in the Yukon, the Yukon government provided my transportation to and from. After this was scheduled, I looked into Air North flights to see when they were going to add a few flights between Whitehorse and Toronto for the holidays (that route is just seasonal for the summer), and then one by one all the pieces fell into place, allowing me to travel to Ontario after my appointment for a few days! I had to get special permission from the Yukon government to have just one-way medical travel, and I covered the rest.
On Tuesday, I had two flights down to Vancouver with Air North, the world’s best airline. Our friend Tim was on the same flight, which made the hours pass faster having someone to fly with.
When I got to Vancouver, my cousin Meaghen was there to meet me! Since my visit to Vancouver was going to be short, she packed a bag of board and card games and came with me to the hotel for the night. We dined in the hotel restaurant. I had a great mocktail with a spring of rosemary in it, and shrimp tacos!
We spent the evening watching classic Christmas movies and cartoons and playing backgammon and Skip-bo and a Monopoly card game and another game about escaping from an island. It was so great to spend the evening together!
The next day before my appointment we went shopping. Meaghen is a fabulous personal shopper! I just told her who I needed to buy gifts for and she knew just what I should get! She’s also really handy for navigating the city. We were on buses and trains. Vancouver has a great transit system and buying a day pass made it easy.
After shopping, Meaghen took my gigantic Christmas gift-packed suitcase back to her house, and I went over to Burnaby for my appointment. I’ve been getting hives when I take Tylenol or Advil, off and on for 17 years (is 2005 really that long ago!?!). The allergist, Dr. Chang, was a super nice, friendly guy. We talked about the Burnaby skyscrapers and life in the north. His father-in-law was a dentist who flew with Max Ward around the north, practicing dentistry back in the day. While we were chatting, he did an allergy skin test on the inside of my arm. I did not think a skin test was possible for Tylenol and Advil, but it was pretty simple. He used 4 drops on my arm – 1 drop of a histamine trigger to induce a reaction to compare what a full out reaction looked like, 1 drop of saline as a baseline, and then one drop of a liquid children’s Advil, and another of liquid children’s Tylenol. Then he had a sharp tool to give my skin a scratch inside each drop.
I was certain that I was not going to react and these reactions I’ve been having would remain a mystery. But the mystery has been solved! I am allergic to Advil and Tylenol! Neither is an anaphylactic level reaction, yet. The only reason I thought I was no longer allergic to Tylenol for awhile is because I didn’t have one for years and years and my body had kinda forgotten about it. So this makes things a bit difficult. He prescribed an allergy pill, Blexten, that I need to take at the same time as Tylenol or Advil, to prevent the reaction. This will be okay for occasional use, but he said if I’m ever injured, it will be a bit of a problem. If I was prescribed 4 doses a day of Tylenol or Advil after an injury, he said that much of this allergy drug would render me unable to drive, or even “hike along a precipice” he said.
After the appointment I went to my cousin’s place and she wrapped some of my gifts for me, while I wrapped all the gifts her parents had shipped direct to her place and put them under her beautiful Christmas tree. We watched Home Alone and some other Christmas movies.
I headed to the airport in the early evening for my overnight flight to Toronto. I tend to avoid red eyes at all costs, but it solved some other problems, like letting my Dad pick me up before the commuting travel gets thicker on the 401, and not having to book another expensive Vancouver hotel, although my cousin also asked me to stay with her.
What a miserable night I had. I slept only a few minutes. The guy two seats over shook and bounced his knee with a hyperactive, anxiety-ridden frequency, shaking the entire row of seats like the plane was coming apart. I was prepped with my neck pillow and noise-cancelling headphones, but Air Canada didn’t dim the bright lights!! Not at all! AHHHH! Wish I had something to cover my eyes. I finally, finally fell asleep, and then the lady beside me dropped her phone on my foot.
As the sun neared the horizon, it glowed red like lava!
We were supposed to land in Toronto at 6:30am, but a big wind storm with freezing rain was moving through, so we did some circles and diversions before finally landing. Poor Dad was waiting for me for an hour already before I got out of the airport.
Luckily there was tons of salt on the 401, so we weren’t too slowed down by the weather, but wow was it windy! By the time we got to Kitchener, everything was coated with ice from the freezing rain. That didn’t stop us from going out for breakfast! Look at our feasts!
Before too long, we were at my sister’s place where my Mom was already moved in for the holidays, and I got to spend some time with my little niece and nephew!
I managed to stay awake all day too!
The next day Mom and Julie and Selinah baked Christmas cookies and a birthday cake for me!
Then, we went out to Swiss Chalet for my birthday lunch! Selinah had never been in a sit-down, order from the waitress type of restaurant, due to both Covid and all her nut allergies. Swiss Chalet is nut free though, AND they have their festive special on, which no Ontario-raised kid can miss out on (including me!)
That afternoon I spent an hour or more wrapping all the Christmas gifts I brought with me, or had direct shipped to Julie’s house.
Soon enough, my brother and his family were there! Dad came over and we ordered a bunch of pizza and wings. Followed by my favourite cake, my Mom’s tomato juice cake, full of raisins!
I convinced my brother’s family to camp out with me on the living room floor that night! I brought my new lightweight, hiking sleeping pad and sleeping quilt to try out!
We had snacks and watched some of Dustin Porter’s adventures on YouTube as one by one everyone nodded off until it was just me and my brother left awake.
It was rather hot on the floor when camping inside. I was over dressed. Just before 6am, I was wide awake and snuck up to my guest bedroom and crawled into bed for a couple more hours of sleep.
That morning, my sister-in-law Leanne and I got to go with Julie and Selinah to her dance class! There is a Santa Claus there that Selinah loves. She’s a huge fan of Santa!
After that, we had a family Christmas! Dad and his wife came to Julie’s, and my aunt Cecilia too! I haven’t been with my family for Christmas since… 2016 perhaps? This was a week early, but same thing, right? It was great!
Jeff had picked out a fishing rod and tackle box for Easton, and he was so happy! Here he is unwrapping the pole and showing me how big he thinks his first fish will be. I can’t wait for him to go fishing with his Uncle Jeff again. My Dad was in on the secret and bought Easton a bunch of tackle and accessories for his new tackle box.
We got Hadley a Bluetooth noise-cancelling set of headphones! She loves listening to music, like any good teenager. Hopefully they work well for her! (Thanks Leanne for getting a photo of her with them! I’m stealing this from your Facebook!)
Both of my parents gave me a bag of Red River cereal! My brother got some too. And then, later, Jeff gave me 5 more bags for my birthday. So now I’m sitting on a hoard of 7 bags of Red River cereal!!
After Easton called Jeff to thank him, he captured a cutie pic of Julie and I on her staircase telling him all about the fun he was missing out on.
Christmas supper prep was all hands on deck – except the oven in Julie and Wole’s rental house is so underpowered. The poor turkey took a few extra hours! Oh well, we didn’t mind!
The cousins got matching pj’s and my Mom got all the girls Christmas slippers and Easton a couple cool pairs of socks!
The next day was the Verkley family Christmas in Strathroy. We were planning to have a big gathering in my cousin Patrick’s chicken barn, since it was timed nicely when the barn was between flocks and all cleaned, but the avian bird flu in the area halted those plans. No need to put his operation at risk. The backup worked fine though, in the basement of the Catholic church. Aunt Cecilia and my cousin Wes picked me up on the way to the party, since Julie’s van was already packed with people and Dad took out the seats of his van for work!
Cecilia and I quickly zipped out at one point after learning the nearby grocery store had 3 cases of the formula Jordan needs, the kind that is sold out everywhere! We felt like superheros bringing back 3 cases for him!
Santa made an appearance too!!
Everyone got to sit on his lap and whisper their Christmas wishes, even ME!
Afterwards we went back to my Uncle Tom and Aunt Cathy’s house. Easton played the guitar and cousin Patrick played the piano. Uncle Joe drew me a sketch of an idea for a log hauler to help our firewood hauling out of the woods. Some of us zipped out to see a snowy owl too!
After the party, I went back to Toronto with Cecilia and Wes for my flight the next morning. I got a tour of Wes and Ted’s new house, and then collapsed into sleep at Cecilia’s. She got me to the airport with plenty of time the next morning to wait in line to drop off my suitcase and bag. My flight was delayed 90 minutes because no fuelers showed up to fuel up the plane! It was the special Air North flight through Yellowknife to Whitehorse, so no one was too bothered. We knew we were in good hands! Actually, it seemed like the entire plane was full of parents and grandparents heading up north to visit their kids and grandkids for the holidays. They were swapping stories of how their kids will never move back home to Ontario.
Because of the delay, the wine, beer, and alcoholic drinks were free for the flight! They were even serving rum and egg nog! I’m still holding strong on not drinking, so I had an apple juice, a black tea, and later a ginger ale. Food is all free on Air North, so we had a big lunch, and later a deli plate, a warm chocolate chip cookie, and they even passed out candy canes!
All my travel had worked out *so* well, for December! But I knew back home it was super cold with ice fog, and the flight from Whitehorse to Dawson had been cancelled on several days due to no visibility at the airport, so I was pretty sure Whitehorse was going to be my home for the week. It looked like the ice fog was going to keep Dawson socked in until at least Friday.
I stayed overnight at the Yukon Inn in Whitehorse. It was -40 and frigid. I was pretty grateful the hotel restaurant was open for another hour because I did not have the proper cold winter gear to walk for food, not even to that McDonald’s across the street.
The next morning I took the chilly hotel shuttle to the airport, expecting to wait around all day. Vancouver had just closed its airport to incoming and outgoing flights due to a snowstorm. It was about to be a long miserable day for flight travel in western Canada.
But my flight went on schedule! It was a cold flight. Knowing there was ice fog made it a bit uncertain if we would be able to land, but the pilots were feeling confident about the 2km of visiblity reported at the Dawson airport. Our airport is surrounded by hills and mountains, so daylight visual landings are key. The sun wasn’t up yet (not until noon this time of year), but there was just enough light that the ground was visible.
The ice fog was thick around Dawson and in the river valley, so we passed over the airport and runway once, before circling around for landing. We landed to loud applause! One guy on the plane had been trying to get home since Friday (this was Tuesday).
It was -46C / -53F or so when we landed. Not a time when you want to be driving or travelling anywhere, so Jeff waited at home until he knew for sure the flight landed before he drove out to the airport to pick me up. I was so grateful for his heated seats!
Yes! I was home!! With no significant delays or hardships. It was a super fast whirlwind trip, and I got to see so many people and celebrate my 47th birthday and Christmas. But I didn’t get to see everyone. Not even my Grandma Stock, but I did talk to her on the phone. And I was pretty close to Jeff’s parent’s town, but we didn’t pass close enough for any in-person Christmas wishes.
After picking me up, Jeff tucked his big diesel truck back in our garage to stay warm and I shuttled him to work and picked him up later.
Town is pretty quiet in this temperature. The winter solstice/Christmas boat parade tonight is cancelled due to the cold weather. Many restaurants are closed for the holidays already, but most of the rest are closed because propane doesn’t flow when it is this cold. Here are a few more pictures from today at noon when I went to pick Jeff up from work.
Thanks to everyone who helped facilitate my travel plans! That was a trip of memories I’ll treasure for ever. Miss you all!